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tv   Today in Washington  CSPAN  October 3, 2012 7:30am-9:00am EDT

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towards keeping the american people safe, healthy and protected from unsafe, ineffective and poor quality medicines sold online. but it's not the only step that we need to be doing in that we at the fda are committed to. fda and the partnership for safe medicines need to continue to work together to educate patients, to advocate for patients, and through tough law enforcement to protect patients. the partnership for safe medicines has been a steadfast and consistent voice towards these goals. in doing so, you felt the american people be safe from products that are sold as legitimate medicines that heal, but are far more likely to be dangerous. for batch of my deep appreciation and commitment, we must continue to work together. we must build on the successes that we've already achieved together, and we must continue
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to put the safety and health of the public as our first and foremost priority. so thank you for your time and for all the good work that all of you do, from the various positions you hold, and your commitment to this critical public health concern. thank you so much. [applause] >> this is the first book i've written where there's an actual same storyline running through it. it's a true story of about basically 10 days of london in 1854. it's a story of an incredibly terrifying outbreak that took place during this period, an outbreak of cholera. the first half of the book is really quite sobering and frightening in some ways as this outbreak just devastates this neighborhood, the western edge of soho. but it also turns into being
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actually i think a much more optimistic story because the events of this little stretch of time turn out to be central to solving he riddle of where the cholera was coming from, and that ultimately setting up the series of current public health initiatives and other strategies are basically eliminating cholera as a threat from london and from other cities around the world. >> steven johnson is our guest sunday taking your calls, e-mails and tweets on in depth. the author will look at sites history, the cyber world, popular culture in computer networking and politics. live at noon eastern on booktv on c-span2. >> this is the first parish church in brunswick maine, and its significance to the story of
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uncle tom's cabin is that in many ways the story began you. is here in this q., q. number 23, that harriet beecher stowe, by her account, saw a vision of uncle tom being whipped to death. now, uncle tom as you probably know as the title character of the hero of her 1852 novel, uncle tom's cabin. uncle tom's cabin was written very much as a protest novel, by anyone in the north, take a in knowing what all abolitionists lived, if anyone in the north was to aid or abet a fugitive slave, they themselves would be imprisoned or fined for breaking the law. and this was the bill which was seen as kind of the compromise between the north and south to avoid war. so that was part of what the novel was trying to do was to say listen, i'm a person, harriet beecher stowe, and i'm
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against slavery as was most of new england, and it's my right to help a slave who find him or herself in our borders. we have the right to do that. we are not a slave state. we should be allowed to practice our laws as we see fit. >> more about harriet beecher stowe this weekend as booktv, american history tv and c-span's local content vehicles look behind the scenes at the history and literally life of a gust of may and saturday at noon eastern on booktv on c-span2, and sunday at 5 p.m. on american history tv on c-span3. >> according to the new america foundation, 2012 is been the most expensive election season on record due in part to the supreme court citizens united decision. in this discussion panelists examine the effect that corporate spending has had on the campaign season. this is an hour and a half.
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>> good morning. good morning and welcome to the new america foundation. my name is mark schmitt. i'm a senior fellow at the roosevelt institute and a research fellow here at new america foundation. the vice president of new america and i have pulled together a good panel on what's really going on with money and politics in 2012. we call it beyond sticker shock because the idea is to kind of get beyond the basic idea of that huge amount of money here in politics. i remember when i first got involved in this issue in 1996 i was working on the hill, and my boss wanted to do a big speech. how outrageous it was, up to $1 billion would be spent on the election in 1996. of course, that begins to seem like the line from doctor evils
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demand for $1 million to not take over the world. so what i'm going to do here is a couple brief presentations and open it up to a panel discussion. the first presentation will be michael scherer from "time" magazine what kind of give us the landscape of money and politics, what's really happening. i'm going to run through a little bit of some of the questions that i think we might want to be asking that are sort of you on the sticker shock question. do that pretty quickly. then we'll be joined by trevor potter, katherine mangu-ward -- trevor potter is a partner, and often known as the lawyer for stephen colbert's super pac. ali many of us have known him for many years but now the world knows him. and katherine mangu-ward is a fellow here at new america and the managing editor of
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magazines. so with no more a do i will thank you all for coming and turn it over to michael. >> someone who knew trevor when he was a lawyer for john mccain, agenda was a pretty important job, nothing like being a lawyer for stephen colbert. maybe one day i can say i work for comedy central, too. people will be impressed. i just want to give a brief overview. this is out to a graphic we ran in "time" magazine at the end of july this summer, trying our best at that moment in time to project that where the money would come from and what the differences would be in terms of the various sides. the point we're trying to make, one that there is a real difference in political money strategy that these campaigns are employing this cycle. the obama campaign is heavily reliant on small dollars,
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individual dollars, regular and money, that is contributions $2500 from individuals. the campaign has total control over it and can spend it as they want. the exception here is a priority u.s.a. which can barely see because of the chairs, which we are saying maybe would make 60 million, earlier they want to make 100 minute and had to pare that back. there just weren't a lot of wealthy liberals and democrats coming for to give them money. in recent weeks there's been little bit of a turnaround. they been picking up steam but it's nothing compared to what the republicans have had on their site. there's a few different factors. traditionally it's easier to raise money for a no than a yes. it's easier to raise money when out of power will we have an angry donor base that wants to get back in power. that's true of republicans this year. you have a large class, mostly private business entrepreneurs
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who have ponied up money for different reasons. some of them are just friends of mitt romney who know him from private equities, support him and like them and want to be there. some of them are hedge fund are hedge fund givers who were big supporters of barack obama in 2008 but have soured on obama and switched teams. some come from industries that have significant government interest, oil, gas, oil. payday lenders who are very concerned about the consumer financial section bureau regulating them, and are hoping for a romney win which would ease some of that. on the democratic side, there just isn't that collection of people right now. it doesn't mean that at no point in future will there be a large amount of very wealthy liberals, because they're out there who will pony up money. it's just a this cycle, very even if the saving grace of the president is he has improved in 2008, he is equally able to
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raise enormous amounts of money in very small amounts in political terms, enormous amounts of people. we're talking, i think we're up to $3 million for his campaign purchase either an idea of how it differs from what romney has been raising, this is three reports the camera, primary fundraising through the end of august, barack obama has raised 147 million, or 34% of his primary dollars of people who gave under $200. these are people mostly going online or respond to text messages or being hit by campaign aides as he walked precincts. and these are nations, depends on the month, but they average in 15, 20, $30 range. but it adds up to an enormous amount of money. romney so far this cycle, in a moment where you would think there's a lot of grassroots, has
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been really disappointing among small dollar donors. but more disappointing than john mccain was in 2008. arguably a more difficult year for republicans to get their base going. he is raise $40 million, or 18% of his take country and -- the reverse is happening. barack obama is actually, is raising less money this time than he did in 2008 as a sitting president for people to max out on their donation. in 2008 it was $2300 the max to give. this cycle is $2500. but so far through the end of august obama has raised $70 million, or just 16% of us all from that group. romney on the other hand is incredibly good at raising money from people who can part with $2500 after taxes. he's raise $102 million, or 46%,
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almost half, through the end of august was coming from people who have maxed out on the donation. as reflected in the super pac. many of the people are fundraiser, bundlers for romney give them next to him, bundle from their friends and colleagues, people they work with, other money, and then write a check for 100,000 or 200,000 or more to one of the super pacs on the outside. so the question is sort of what does this mean for politics? this increase from the outside dollar spending transforming politics going forward? i think the answer so far is a little complicated. one of the driving forces behind this is the supreme court decision which trevor talked much better about me, lower court decision which basically allowed outside money much easier access to our airwaves right before an election. so there were barriers that were there, historically since the watergate era that prevented
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corporations every wealthy people to pool their money to spend huge amount of television as right before an election. have largely gone away, and that is unleashed this outside spending spree. i am guessing and i don't know but i'm guessing that in a few months we look back on this election we will say that the peak of the power of this impact, they've come not an agenda election but in the primaries which they really transform the republican primary. in the case of the candidates romney was running against, newt gingrich and rick santorum, almost certainly those candidates would not have stayed in race as long as they did, would not have been viable candidates after losing several contests, in each case, without basically a billionaire or two backing them with checks as high as $500 million.
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and as a result, republican primary was much more prolonged than it would have been. romney and his friends had to spend much more money than expected defending him in those early months. and really the whole dynamic of what we were used to in early presidential politics where i will, new hampshire, south carolina got a nominee was sort of updated for a few weeks. since then, super pacs, when romney with the nomination, -- he'd relied heavily on super pacs through the summer months he was advertising. of course, this is not technically coordinated advertising, and trevor can speak of realities and fiction there. and it had some clear obvious positive affects of holding parity with the president as he unleashed an attack against
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romney this summer. but it also has shown to have weaknesses i think, and both campaigns will tell you this. the super pac advertising was not coordinated, didn't follow a simple single narrative like the obama advertising the. the. >> host: build a storyline starting in april that tried to portray romney's certain type of person and then they presented it as months went on, new evidence, the bain capital chapter, his time in massachusetts, offshore tax history and they built this storyline in these swing states, the super pacs were not able to build. and in some cases the obama campaign, you had situations which two different super pacs would have conflicting adds up in the same market both supporting mitt romney. you have one ad that said -- i'm paraphrasing obvious a -- but
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one ad said officially barack obama is a nice guy who couldn't get the job done. that's one of the attacks. in the next commercial break you have an ad that says barack obama was never a nice guy. he's a radical socialist, clean energy lunatic who's trying to take your job. and the result is, more money actually didn't feed into a larger narrative in a way that i think the romney campaign would have preferred. the second thing that the super pac money is less effective now is that under fec rules, or fcc rules, super pacs campaigns are able to get the lowest available rates for the advertising on television advertising right now, right before an election. super pacs are not able to do that. super pacs in the same market are spending far more, sometimes twice or three times as much in the campaign is to get the same
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money. the third reason i think that you are seeing super pacs been less effective now than they were early on is that in just the last month or two, obama because we're getting close to the election, paying more attention to it because we have the conventions, are waking up and giving more money in small dollars in that we don't really sleep happening in the super pacs. at least not yet. made a bunch of people come at the last minute with $10 million checks but we haven't really seen it. the small dollars model has been able to expand nicely for obama as we get close to the in. on the other side run has had to spend a good portion of september when he should've been out campaigning going to fundraisers, trying to collect his $2500 checks. he's been very successful after raising a lot of money but it wasn't the strategic disadvantage at that point in the race. we can get into some of the
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other questions here, but the other thing i would say is i do think there's going to be an interesting political legacy question of this election. we have had in all the elections i've covered, i didn't finance campaign report for "mother jones" magazine in 2000 when it's a totally different world, but there have always been wealthy people with large checks putting money into our political system and somewhat or under the. technically it's not a brand-new ballgame but i think the disability of the super pac, the degree to which campaigns cannot basically raise money for the super pacs if they follow a certain set -- and the ability of these ads was a lot of money, fund raising from wealthy people when you do things you don't see on tv has raised this issue profile for the public. and you've seen the president a few weeks here, and so you'd you'd like to see, explore the possibility of a constitutional
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amendment to overturn citizens united which is a pretty striking, when a politician goes and pulls a constitutional amendment card, you know at least in this case i think he sees it as a real political winner for him over the long haul. and his opponent came out recently that there is concern among the public. i not a lot of people are saying these giant checks are good. we have, what we haven't seen yet in which i fully expect this regime continues over another decade or so are the real corruption scandals which tend to follow this sort of thing. virginia time for that to happen. and the questions to be raised, whether it's actually prosecutable corruption or clear evidence of corruption that makes the voting public upset. there's also a lot, my last one, there's a lot of concern among democratic's specifically data going into 2016 and after what happened in the republican primary this time there's a huge
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barrier to overcome. obama was always going to be pretty much fine. he will probably be outspent this election, but he's an incumbent sitting president with enormous fund-raising potential. he was not going to be a huge disadvantage, but if you have a playing field next time in which either both parties are running from the ground up for the democrats are running against republican incumbents from the ground up, it's difficult to see how any candidate can really get into the race without having a few very wealthy friends. and that really changes the whole way politics is done in these early primary days but basically you need your billionaire or your 100 million or. and there's a real concern among democrats that the candidates are able to get in the race, or worse leave the country -- leader country on the path toward a situation which not just wealthy people, not just people who give $2500, but
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people who give 1 million-dollar or 5 million or $10 million checks. the numbers will keep going up, have increasing control over the political process, and democrats at least right now are interested in provoking a backlash against that. >> i just want to sort set some context here by willie talking about some of the questions we might ask about how things are really giving in 2012, as michael said. there have always been wealthy contributor to politics but certainly some things are different to those things are not just citizens united, although that is certainly part of it, the speech now decision which really most directly credit super pacs is part of it. the absence of rules about
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coordination between campaigns and super pacs is a big part of it. but together they have returned us to a world, on the face of it looks a lot like the pre-watergate world, you know, campaigns being supported off of my relatively small number of wealthy individuals with the big difference being that the sticker shock action, the number is probably six or 7 billion in total if the number i was able to find in pre-watergate 1960 or so was about 300 billion being spent, 300 million, unser, being spent on all federal campaigns. that's kind of before the '70s inflation so i would have to really work that out. what this creates is a situation of where the enormous economic inequality we see is reinforced by political inequality. it's not 1%. it's not the 1% that is giving to campaigns, it's about one-fifth of the top 1% that is giving $200 or more to
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campaigns, and even smaller amount giving $2500 or more. so you would have the potential for economic and political inequality reinforcing themselves, kind of self-perpetuating structure. then you have situations that i like to not talk about corruption and apparent corruption so much as the term later uses which is depends to elected officials are going to be wholly dependent on individual donors, and that creates all kinds of potential for public interest to not be served. i have a little paper out front with that title, beyond sticker shock. what are some questions want to be asking, take a after the election when we begin to have real data? this is a funny kind of the conversation because were sorted in the middle of the street. but once we really begin to get at it after the election and the final report and some time to analyze, i think things want to
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be looking at, these questions kind of our both for journalists and academic researchers about money and politics, and also for people think of what are the changes you do want to make in the future, and kind of go in order from the. the first question would be how has it been affected competition? michael put up money did an interesting thing. super pac my did an interesting thing in the republican primary. it kept campaigns competitive where in the past they wouldn't be. i have a great quote from 1988, a guy, the caucasus campaign chair, said candidates do, talk about presidential primaries. he said candidates don't lose election. they run out of money and can't get the airplanes off the ground. that's a good description. probably the reason dukakis was a democratic nominee was because all the other guys ran out of money. this is limited of course to presidential politics. shouldn't just limited to presidential politics.
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was competition effective in congressional races? were the more competitive candidates as a result of actually the massive flow of money both large money in come in fact small contribution, where more candidates able to reach a threshold of competitiveness which is how political scientists think of money and politics. it's not like playing the card game of work we have a higher number, you and it actually a pretty subtle thing to get reached a threshold where you can be heard and at a certain point extra money isn't doing you any good. so the real question, probably last year the average non-income would win in a congressional race raised 1.5 million, people who either want an open seat or defeated and income. you want to look at how many candidates were actually had a shot but were overwhelmed by super pacs. we want to look very subtle and complicated question really how this might affect the whole political -- polarization.
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you have some of the big super pac donors are clearly much more ideologically driven, something like sheldon edelson or foster friess, much more ideologically driven and a soft-money donors of the late 1990s, how does that affect thngs and the big money, and her battles tend to agree kind of intractable position. so the question would be has that effected polarization. that's a much more subtle question. another question, the automatic instinct is to go to broadcast ad. broadcast ads are the because the politics. they always be. the only way to reach that person who is, they're not picking up information but they will vote. that's probably less than 5% of people who vote in november and probably shrinking as we become polarized. so in a base election, actually both getting your vote out, becomes vastly more important
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than getting to that 5%. so a lot of the money activities that go into kind of organization that is a base and giving the vote out for based on reducing the vote. there's a new organization that is clearly intended to make it difficult for people to vote, things like that. we need to begin to look at that. those are organizations that operate under a different set of legal structures, classing. we do want to look at how corporations change their behavior, what a lot of people thought would really have an active citizenship at what people say exxonmobil is going to put $11 billion into these -- generally hasn't happened. corporations have been about 17% of the total spending. most of those are privately held corporations, the individuals could get from the own pocket or the corporation doesn't matter that much. but what have corporations done? have they become a little more polarized themselves? most corporations have generally
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come corporations like to play both sides of the fence with a few exceptions. a lot of them have been in the-40. a lot of them are little closer to 80/20. you may be single more partisanship we may be seen as in the case for example, of at night without out that the remaking that they're kind of bipartisan on the face of it and partisan in the non-disclosed contributions they're able to make through 501(c)(4)'s are it is interesting to know, it's kind of news that there really are still some downsides to putting money through super pacs. it used, biggest be concerned with outside things because you couldn't control the method and candidates don't like not being able to control the message. now you can control the message. the fact you're not getting the lowest unit rate, the fact that super pacs are not able to buy airtime at the same price, propublica study showed the ronnie super pacs were paying
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six times as much as the obama campaign for the same time. that's an interesting development and may make people think carefully about super pacs. do small donor somatic? clearly as michael pointed out, small donors are still a very significant part of the obama campaign. really be interesting to see how many congressional candidates actually are able to bully based on small donors. that extends to what is really one of the most interesting areas, which is can we use that to build reform initiatives that enhances the valley of small donors and encourage candidates to seek out small donors and enhance the value of small donors similar to new york city's matching funds system for small donors to there's a great system in minnesota which has been defined about for a long time a voucher for small contribution. tax credit. a lot of people have moved to thinking that's a really viable way of thinking about campaigns,
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political scientists put out a couple years ago a project called the aging, reforming the age of network campaigns. some of the congressional legislation, empower citizens act that was just introduced are really based on that model. so small donors are really still a viable way of building a campaign. .. >> will be a bipartisan project
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again? for years and years it was, there's a great legacy of that. before there was mccain-feingold, there was goldwater-boar ran representing fairly conservative republicans as well as, as well as liberal, as well as more moderate ones. that's not the case right now. even b the disclose act a lot of conservatives used to say they were for disclosure but nothing else, even the disclose act now has zero republican cosponsors. it had two in the previous, in the previous congress. but it's possible, i think, after a significant shake-up in this election, maybe after people realize super pacs respect that valuable -- aren't that valuable, there could be some rethinking. and finally, the last piece, does the public actually care about this now? i mean, i've been around this issue for 15 years, other people have been for longer. we've been waiting for people to care, and all of a sudden the
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recent polling suggests the public really does care quite passionately. mr. greenberg had a line that said the public doesn't see money in politics as a distraction from the economy, it is the economy. that connection to economic inequality is strong, on the other hand, that public passion may make it harder to build bipartisan alliances that traditionally have been needed. so to my mind those are kind of the range of questions that we need to be looking at after the election ends. so now what we will do is answer all those questions, we'll all come up here and katherine will lead this open-ended discussion. and stump us. >> thank you for kicking us off with ten million questions to answer. i'm sure we'll be able to cover all of those in our short time here. so i guess just to start out, we're going to get into some of
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the nitty-gritty of this, down and dirty in the campaign finance details, and i'm looking forward to that, but maybe we can indulge the libertarian. talk to me a little bit about free speech. nobody mentioned that in their opening remarks. perfectly reasonable, but there's been, you know, a sort of macro debate in addition to the real, like, hard or money stuff about campaign finance which is speech freer now, is it the right kind of speech, is it, you know, is corporate speech speech at all? and maybe since trevor has been our silent parter if until now -- until now, he can kick us off. just indulge me with a little first amendment worship. >> well, i think that's the right place to start because testify a supreme court that started in the buckley decision back in the '70s and, obviously, much more recently in citizens united has used the first amendment as a way to disqualify a range of government
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restraints on pote contributions and -- on both contributions and spending. the first thing to say, of course, is we're all americans, we all believe in the first amendment. the question is, what is the first amendment? and one of the things that i point out when i think about this is we have a supreme court over the course of the last 100 years which has had a whole range of views of what the first amendment required and didn't require. so it isn't a black and white question. you had a supreme court which for 35 years after the buckley case said that corporations didn't have the same first amendment free speech rights as individual, and the labor unions didn't as well. and then with the change of one justice changed all that doctrine and decide, oops, that's wrong, they do. if you added up the number of justices who had voted over those years saying they didn't have those rights compared to those who do, the number of justices who say they don't is
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the winner. so it isn't a clear yes or no. the supreme court has made this distinction between contributions and expenditures for the first amendment and has said, well, they've said if you stand on the street corner, that's speech. fine, we all know that. if you stand there with a amplified microphone, bullhorn that's still speech, even though you paid for it. but they said -- so they've said that line of logic means an individual and now a corporation standing on a street corner or using their money for their own speech -- radio ads, tv ads, that's all free speech. on the otheron the other hand, e individual who takes the money can be prevented from giving it to the candidate. because the court says the first amendment speech there is lesser. you are taking your money, and
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you're handing it to someone else to spend and for them to decide what message they want, the point that has been made about the super pac versus the candidateses, and, therefore, it's not really your speech. it's some symbolic sense of saying, yes, i support this candidate by giving them my money, but that could be $100 rather than a million. so the court has said you can limit what individuals give to some other person or entity. so what's the super pac? is it your own free speech? is it giving a contribution to this entity where other people decide what to say and what to spend? can it, therefore, be limited contrary to what the court said in speech now? these are all the first amendment questions that we deal with when we get under the 50,000-foot level of the first amendment allows free speech, does it allow unlimited contributions? the courts have said no. is giving all this money to super pacs a contribution?
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i think it's a good argument that it is. and finally the reason this matters is that we have a, we hope, a democracy, a republic, a constitutional form of government where at the end of the day the president and the congress have to make decisions on matters. and we don't want them being -- in its grossest form, we don't want them being bought off. i think the notion of a democracy is that people, citizens, voters get to set policy, not what we would call special interests, other groups would call -- other countries would call oligarchs. i got a call from a german reporter this summer, and he said i want to interview you about the role of the oligarchs in the election. [laughter] and i thought, wait a minute, wrong country. [laughter] but, you know, there is this, this concept fundamentally that you want a congress that represents the will of the
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people and isn't bought off. and that's where reform started a hundred years ago, was the notion that you had the senator from standard oil, and you shouldn't. you should have the senator representing the citizens of new jersey, and standard oil was only one of the constituents of that senator. so underlying this is the tension, i think, sometimes between the first amendment when it comes to spending unlimited money versus corruption and the danger of corruption and people feeling that their government and its policies have been bought by a tiny minority of voters who represent a sizable economic interest. >> can i comment on this? >> of course. >> i mean, i think -- i yield -- i don't want to let libertarians own the first amendment, you know? i care about the first amendment as well, and it's why, it's one reason why i think, you know, incentives that boost small donors and other voices are very important part of the solution.
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but i see the issue as not just, you know, first amendment or no first amendment. it's really an issue of how do we draw the boundaries around an election. what do you call the boundaries of an election? that's the real challenge here. we've always had in thinking about the first amendment what some scholars call electoral exceptionalism to make sure they're fair and people can be heard. that's why you can't campaign within 75 feet of a voting booth, for example, which is certainly a restriction on speech, but it's an important one. and we've always -- we accept that contribution limits are a way of balancing that out. then the question really becomes what, what's out there that's really a contribution, really about the election? what might as well be considered, you know, a contribution directly to the election and what's external speech? that was the real challenge about the election their communications in the
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mccain-feingold work. what's about influencing the election and what's free free-for-all speech outside of that zonesome that's what i think it's about, not just do you value free speech aren't. >> if i could add to that, i think that's a nice analogy. if you look at so who's in the zone. we have established a constitution that says citizens vote, noncitizens do not vote. that, you know, we came from -- we were worried about european governments intervening in our new republic, so the inner circle is that individual citizens are the people who vote. then we've decided that if you have a green card, you can contribute to candidates but not vote. so you look this and say, okay, foreigners don't have a role in our election. the law says they can't contribute, they can't spend money, they can't make an
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independent expenditure. that's reserved to individuals. then you have to say, okay, so where are corporations in all of this? they're not individuals, they presumably are not foreigners although they may be owned by foreign corporations. but that line of conversation assumes that the government should have a role in deciding who is in the circle, whether it's who has the first amendment right or the rights to speak or the right to vote. it's all a piece of that, who gets to determine who our leaders are. and i think that's what the conversation becomes. >> michael, i wonder if you can talk a little bit more, um, in your earlier remarks you kind of described this, um, problem for the campaign of the fragmented narrative. you have many voices, um, and they're independently funded and can't be coordinated, sometimes the message is muddied. as you were describing it, i thought it sounded kind of great, that there's this sort of two models, and one is this, you know, very disciplined, there's
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one story, this is the only story the public gets to hear, and that's because of the way the money is flowing, right? it's very specific to how the dollars are moving around. and then in this other scenario we have a bunch of people hollering, and, you know, you could say that the money makes the voices louder, it's the megaphone. but you gave us a purely strategic analysis, but i'd like you to bring some of your own judgment to it. is this a good thing for the process for democracy for america? it's clearly a bad thing for the romney campaign in this cycle. >> no, the romney campaign would say it's a bad thing. maybe it's more aesthetically pleasing to have lots of people screaming instead of one narrative. if i were to answer the question is it better or worse, i think i would probably go back to just a way of judging that. how well the public interest is served vis-a-vis the issue of corruption and the appearance of
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corruption. which is something that as a journalist, like, there's two things you look for here. first is you're frustrated by the lack of transparency. what we haven't talked about, there's tons of 501c4 money coming into these campaigns, same giant checks, in many cases wealthy individuals there could be wealthy individuals that are only giving privately we don't know are on the radar. it's a huge problem for public accountability reason, and if they are adding to the color and chorus of democracy but they're doing it in a way that fundamentally conceals who is speaking, um, in a way that could destroy the product, i do think that's something the public or me as a journalist should be concerned about. i want to know, um, just for accountability's sake who is trying to, um, push an election one way or the other. and the other issue is this issue of, i mean, as i understand the supreme court decisions and the history here,
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the first amendment butts up against this issue of corruption, the appearance of corruption when you said we don't want our officials being bribed. and the real issue with the super pacs as i see it this cycle is that in citizens united the majority opinion said as a statement of fact that if you are a third party group like a super pac and you're giving money, spending money on your own independently without technical coordination, there is no corruption or appearance of corruption. it's just not a concern. we're going to rule out that possibility. and i don't think the american people would agree with that. i think if you look at the plain fact of the issue, the idea that because someone who is a friend of mitt romney who gives money at an event where mitt romney speaks to a third party group, to a group that says they're only going to do what the mitt romney campaign is publicly saying thai going to do in terms of -- they're going to do in terms of public messaging, it ends up being a fictional wall
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between the campaigns and these third party groups. and the real danger, and we don't know how it's going to play out, but the real danger is, you know, the politician who gets elected because of contributions from one wealthy person when he gets into office, you know, either does something that is not necessarily in the public interest, but in the interest of repaying the public donor. and, again, if that happens, the aesthetic beauty of having lot of people chiming in on my television as opposed to just one probably is less, less important. >> how do you square that, though, with this, the point that you made earlier that some of these big donors are increasingly, they're in it for the ideology, right? they're not in it because they want their company to get a tax break when it comes out the far side. >> [inaudible] >> well, at the very least we think that we will take as a, as
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a stipulation at this moment in this debate that at least some of these guys who give money are doing it just because they believe in something, and maybe that's starry-eyed, but i think it's real that at least in some cases this is really not about material consideration. it's not to say that their beliefs don't sometimes line up with material considerations, but that, um, in those cases i think it's a little harder to tell this story of corruption. you can till tell the story of influence, you can still tell the story of, you know, like the whole point of giving money to a candidate somewhere along the line is to change the way policy is made in this country. so that's never going to go away. but, you know, what do we do with the guys who are just saying, listen, i like policies x, y and z, and i want to say more of that, go for it, buddy. >> that's probably a bad example to use in that case because he gave an interview in "the politico" in which he said
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there's a possibility of federal informations into him, he said they're outrageous, false, not true, and i'm convinced if obama wins, they're going to purview these -- pursue these, and -- >> we'll have an imaginary ideological donor. >> why not use the real one? [laughter] >> this is a legitimate question. >> i think in having spent time in this -- you're right, i think sometimes the press gets it wrong in sort of assuming that anybody who gives money is a bad person in it for themselves, and that's just the assumption of the narrative. you know, you do the list of the ten, you know, big, bad money people who are out to buy the election, right? and what the reality is, is there are very different motivations from very different types of people. there are basically ideological philanthropists who give every year because they feel, you know, they're wealthy people, their careers are over, they feel this is how they can do
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good in the world. they really don't want anything back, even if they get a tax break from a politician, they don't care about it. from a policy standpoint, from a legal standpoint is how do you, how do you distinguish from the outset the one guy from the other guy? i think it's important telling the story to try and distinguish one guy from the other guy, but the case of edelson is a good case in that he clearly has ideological views, philanthropic goals in terms of changing policies around the world, the situation around the world vis-a-vis iran and other things. he also has very real business interests. he also has personal interests possibly, i don't know the state of these investigations, so possibly with federal investigators. um, and so you -- i don't, i just wouldn't know as a policy matter how to say, okay, if you check the box that says i'm really just in it for nothing, then, therefore, you can give more money than the guy who works for the payday lender
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which is a pretty more clear-cut case who's facing a huge regulatory burden because romney has promised them that if he's elected, you know, the elizabeth warren for payday lending will not go into effect. >> trevor, you've been kind of itching to get in here. you want to dive in? >> some of this resembles a conversation we literally had 100 years ago when the wall street trust elected theodore roosevelt because they thought he would not enforce these new antitrust laws against them. that was ideological. they didn't like william jennings bryan, they probably thought he was a socialist, but their view was that we want our thinking in the white house and in the justice department, and we want someone who sees the economy our way. is that a business interest? is that a philosophical/ideological interest? you know, after the election the great line that came out of that was henry clay frick who said about roosevelt we bought the
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son of a bitch, he just didn't stay bought. [laughter] and roosevelt ended up saying we ought to get rid of private money in federal elections, we ought to have public money out of the treasury because trust corporations shouldn't be deciding who the president is. i think if you look back at the supreme court in the citizens united case, what you see is a court that has two very different views, the dissent and the majority, over what's happening, and we see it played out this year. we have your view, um, which is a perfectly, i think, you know, respectable view of aspirational, that there will be all these independent groups, and they will be speaking, and they will be saying what they want to say, and the candidates may like it, they may dislike it, but it's going to be independent, it's going to be fully disclosed, and it's not going to be corrupting because it's independent. then you have the minority which, i think, got the reality of some of the spending, maybe most of it this year but not all of it correct. and their view was, wait a
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minute, you know, these are going to be funded by giant corporations that have a specific legislative interest or individuals who own giant corporations, and that's why they're going to give so much money. it turns out it's not fully disclosed, it's not independent of candidates in any common sense definition of independent, and thus edges to and perhaps crosses the line to being corrupting. but those are two different views of the world. as stephen said in his dissent, you know, it's interesting, when i talk about corporations, i think of international oil companies. when the majority talks about corporations, they talk about the corner hairdresser who just happens to be incorporated. so it's sort of dependent on which end of the telescope you look through how you saw this, and i think in this election you're seeing examples of both which goes to michel's question then of how do you write a law that covers both? >> i'm so rarely accused of the one with being the hopeful,
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aspirational view of politics, it's actually refreshing. [laughter] we've had this compelling explanation how hard it is to draw bright lines, right? how everything is muddled, how the corner hairdresser and the international oil company are in some sense the same but clearly different and how their speech is in some sense speech and in some sense not, and i would add what exactly is the difference between, you know, when i go in the ballot box and i vote purely on my personal economic self-interest, if i just say i don't want my taxes to be higher, and i think this guy's going to make them lower, why is that different than someone saying i don't want the taxes on my corporation to be higher and i think this will make them lower? all of this sounds, to me, as an argument to stop trying to write these incredibly complex rules that people just work around. so i guess i'm interested, maybe you could just step in here and say, you know, what is the case
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for rules? what is the vision of rules that work? >> well, i mean, i think part of it -- let's take a slightly different example, this distinction between ideological and self-interested donors, because i don't think that's that important. let's say, for example, you have some hedge fund donor lives in connecticut, gave a lot of money to obama in 2008 because he's socially liberal, environmentalist, all those things, now he's turned around and decided obama hates bankers, and he's giving the same amount of money to romney. he's still a donor, he's got his interests either way. his economic interests, i mean, i don't really care about that distinction so much and, frankly, if a politician's views -- i find it, i actually found it quite shocking to see governor romney in a speech with edelson in the front row taking a position about the middle east that, to say the least, will box him in in a way that presidents
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don't usually want to be boxed in on foreign policy. it was a rather tight commitment that mitt romney made with a donor nodding in the front row. i was troubled by that as if he makes a commitment to end investigations against edelson. i had an argument with mine, is he more interested in destroying unions or supporting, you know, he has other priorities as well. i don't think it matters. i don't think the rules have to be that clear. the rules are you want to create a structure where elected officials are not wholly dependent on a given -- not largely dependent on a given donor. one of the principles i always use is you want them to be in a situation where if they're in office and that donor comes back and says i really want x, y, z, the elected official can say, as senator mccain famously did, get out of my office. and if you can't because that money is fundamentally important to your campaign, you have a
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problem. and that's the case for rules. >> so there i would make the republican plea for judicial modesty and say, look, this is complicated. the discussion we've had indicates there's not a simple open and shut answer. under our system of government, the tie ought to go to congress in those circumstances. they are the ones who have been elected by the people, spent all this time on it and came up with what they thought was a law that uld prevent corruption. and then you have, you know, five justices saying, no, we actually, we have a better way to do this. p -- it seems to me that when you are in the middle of an area as murky as this, that it is appropriate for the courts to defer to congress on the theory that they -- as i think justice o'connor knew when she was still on the court as the only justice who had ever been elected to anything or raised money in a campaign -- that the members of the legislature, the members of the court are going to have a
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better sense of what the dangers are here of corruption and how to avoid them. >> michael, maybe you could talk a little bit about where you see congress going on this issue. i mean, this is, you know, this is certainly something that congress is not going to let lie in status quo forever. and you also mention inside your remarks that there's sort of always been this money, it flows through the cracks, it moves in mysterious ways. what's next in, on the national level legislatively? >> first point was right, right now it's not a bipartisan issue, it's a partisan issue in congress, so in the near term i don't imagine much will happen. that said, there are sort of fundamental forces in the electorate that would allow that to shift. one of the things we've had since the economic collapse is an economic populism on both sides of the ideological spectrum against the idea that banks always are getting favorable deals, that the wealthy are treated on a different, with a different set
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of rules than main street, the sort of wall street/main street thing appeals almost equally to activists in the tea party and on the left, although they come to very different conclusions about what to do about it. that seems to me just from that -- not talking about the leadership currently in congress who's resistant to this -- argues sort of obviously that you want more disclosure, right? if that's your concern as a first step short of a constitutional amendment or getting new supreme court justices to overturn citizens united, we do have an enormous problem now not only in the times of disclosures. often money will be spent, we won't know who spent the money on election until after the votes are cast. we have all this dark money in 501c4s that are going for political ads that we really have no access to who the donors are. mitt romney has said in, um, one of the republican debates that he would be for, in his ideal
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future system, um, the super pacs would merge with his campaign, anybody could give him unlimited amounts of money, but there would be immediate disclosure to -- so the people would know and be able to track any concern about the appearance of corruption. my guess is that's sort of next place to go to. and in this age the sec is a particularly dysfunctional body. trevor can tell you more -- [laughter] the than me, but, you know there is no good proportion mechanism we have. we've had for a while for most of these things in any real time, and also the disclosure mechanisms, though they're improving, remain far behind what is possible today. it should be the case that as soon as they're cashing the check, there's no reason that that money can't show up in a database that is posted online, um, from any group that's spending money and influence. so that would be my guess of where you go next. i think the other political
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thing that will happen here is that, um, whatever the outcome of the election, democrats intend to make this a populist appeal. they intend to use, and this is part of the democratic narrative for years that, you know, i'm with the working guy against the fat cats, and we're going to help the working guy defeat the fat cats. think obama -- i think obama signaling in that interview that he would pursue a constitutional amendment. basically he's saying it's not going to happen anytime soon, he's saying that i'm going to go door the door on this, and i'm going to make this a rallying cry as a way of organizing support for my side. and the polls, some polls suggest there's real, you know, you could win people over by that. you say, look, these guys are getting taken care of because -- i mean, it used to be, this election's a little different, but it used to be just in the last few cycles that that was a bipartisan rallying cry, right?
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i'm with the common man. republicans would say it, john mccain ran outen to a large extent in 2008, i'm against the powers that be in washington, i'm against the special interests in washington. so there's real potential, i think, for one party to really take this as a baton and use this as a way of mobilizing people. >> if i could just add to that. i mean, i think at the same time the bipartisan ground has disappeared, it has become a much bigger issue among democrats. not only on the ground, but, i mean, it's really worth noting. at the time of mccain-feingold, senator feingold was sort of a pest in some ways to the democratic leadership of the senate, and, you know, there was a little bit -- in many ways that was a miracle, that legislation was quite a political miracle. but what you have now in the previous congress when democrats controlled congress until 2010, you did have a majority of democrats supporting the fair elections now act, and the
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leadership on that was coming from people like john larson of connecticut who is the third-ranking democrat. i mean, it's deeply embedded at the highest levels in a way that in my experience i haven't really seen that before. it's been more of a specialized interest sometimes. at the legislative level. so i think, you know, if you, if democrats were to take back the house, you know, potentially you'd have a very different political configuration which republicans would have to respond to because i think they really care. i think in the past i think leaders would sometimes say on the one hand, yeah, it was good to say they were for campaign finance reform. on the other hand, like all incumbents they know one way or another i've mastered this system, and i don't want to mess with it. so they were always halfway there. i think it's going to be fascinating as you see people coming into congress who have had experience with state-level systems like arizona or maine's or new york's that worked well for them. i think you'll begin to see that just as, for example, people who have had experience with the new
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york city public financing system moving into the new york state legislature has created a really significant momentum for similar reform in that legislature. and the other interesting question is, does the push for a constitutional amendment help build this, or does it -- i think it gets in the way. because i think it's one of those things where there's no steps along the way. you're basically telling people you can't do anything until you have an amendment. the equal rights amendment failed, but there were lots of steps along the way that people could do, so it didn't need to pass in order for a lot of things to happen. e think this one is very different. >> if you go back and look at the congress ten years ago when mccain-feingold was passed, it's a very different congress. there is a great deal of commentary about the fact that congress has become more polarized and more centered on the left and right ends of the spectrum with much less in the middle.
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in the early 2000s, john mccain carried 20% of the republican senate caucus with him for mccain-feingold. it passed in the house because a group of moderate republicans voted for it against the wishes of their party leadership. most of those senators who voted for mccain-feingold on the republican side are gone. you know, the party has moved on, it's evolved, it has -- if you look at the leadership, you go back to the '90s and, by the way, i'd forgotten about goldwater-boran, but there were perennially discussions about campaign finance, and they took place in a world where someone like bob dole was the republican leader. and he was interested in making sure republicans didn't get a bad deal, but he was not opposed to the idea of reform or legislation. in today's world with mitch mcconnell as the senate
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leader, you know, he has spent years opposing legislation in this area and seeking to shut down the regulation we have. it is at least partially because of senator, maybe largely because of senator mcconnell that we have an sec that is deadlocked 3-3 and unable to take any action because it takes four votes. talk about a super majority requirement, a two-thirds requirement for the sec to do anything, so we shouldn't be surprised they don't. having said that, i think there really is a change on the way congress looks at this on partisan lines. i still hold out hope that after the election in a new congress they will at least take a look at the disclosure side because there the supreme court was crystal clear in citizens united 8-1, the one part the minority joined in, saying that disclosure of all of this
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spending for issue ads as well as election ads, campaign ads, candidate ads was constitutional. and they went further, and they said, and it's a good thing. it's, of course, necessary in a democracy. citizens should know who's paying for these ads, shareholders should know what their corporations are up to so they can judge them. and that's what we don't have particularly when you get to ads paid for by these nonprofits where there's simply no disclosure of who the donors are. so it seems to me that that's an area where not only have republicans traditionally favored it, not only is it hard to argue against disclosure, not only has the supreme court said it's a good thing and constitutional, but you're going to have a congress that has just gone through an election with a lot of undisclosed money. so that may be a situation where the ideology is trumped by the practical, and candidates end up saying, you know, we ought to know where this is coming from. >> so just very briefly, and
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then i'll definitely get back to you, but i think it's sort of easy to agree about the importance of disclosure, and i think that's why you're right to sort of look into the future and say that might be where this debate is headed in general. but, um, you know, there is some value to anonymous political speech, certainly. and, you know, is the goal to get to a place where all speech regarding an election, all speech 90 days before the election, whatever it is, however we set up the rules where we really know where every dollar of funding for every word that's spoken about the election comes from? and if we're going to make exceptions, who gets those exceptions and why? and i think traditionally i know as a pen of the media i'm always very -- as a member of the media i'm always happy to get special treatment in all times and places, but this is where we've made an exception just by saying we declare it's us. that large corporations that produce newspapers, magazines, whatever it is, they can say
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whatever they want whenever they want because the free press is important. but, um, if we're talking about a world where disclosure really is so complete, where's the space for anonymous political speech, where's the space for unpopular political speech? maybe the appropriate entity for that isn't a corporation, but, you know, the citizens united case was about this wacky video made by this wacky group that was really a pretty independent collection of people who just wanted to get their ideas out there. so what do we do with that? i guess i'm interested -- we'll get back to you, but i think you were going to chime in, and i suspect it segways here. go ahead. >> i was just going to say on the point that the best thick for getting -- thing for getting more action on this is a scandal. watergate gave us the regulatory framework we have, um, the scandals, the foreign money scandals of the '90s gave us mccain-feingold. there's a lag here. i fully expect that assuming
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this regime continues, at some point scandals come up that raise the attention of the cost of this. i think it's a good question you asked. i'm in a difficult position. i'm a journalist, right? so i'm biased towards more information. i understand that there is a theoretical value to the ability to have anonymous speech in a presidential contest. i guess i would just want to weigh that value against the risk of corruption. um, and my profession alibi whereas would suggest to me that the value of being anonymously able to say this guy is rotten to the core and millions of dollars in it's ads and never disclose who i am is almost always going to be outweighed by the value of to the country of knowing who that person speaking is and why they're saying it. but i agree that it's not, there's no clear-cut answer for that. >> i don't, i guess, understand
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why you think there's a value in someone being able to spend millions of dollars anonymously to run an ad saying someone is great or terrible. i understand the value of the ad, um, and that speech. i understand the value of disclosure which is to prevent corruption and so that voters can put it in context. but it wasn't clear to me what the value was of saying it's a good thing for democracy -- >> >> [inaudible] >> do that anonymously. >> among other things, just an unpopular view which we have many, many reasons to want all kinds of unpopular views to be expressed in the political debate especially around elections, and i might be a rich guy who just doesn't want to have the pain at cocktail parties of it, or i might be someone who genuinely, you know, fears for my perm safety -- personal safety or i might be someone who doesn't want my own reputation to sully the message that i'm conveying. i mean, i think there are plenty of good reasons that most people
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can understand. anyone who's ever written anything under a pseudonym, there's lots of reasons why you might want to communicate without adding your identity. >> there are reasons, i'm not sure they're good reasons. >> i think they're good reasons. [laughter] >> well, as justice scalia talked about, that does not resemble the hand of the brave. >> yeah. you haven't been to the same cocktail parties. [laughter] we now are going to open it up for questions. we've got a few minutes to take some inquiries from the audience. so who wants to get alienated at cocktail parties? how about in the red jacket over here. >> hi, i'm eliza newman carney from roll call. can you talk about the implications of the super pac and also the nonprofit phenomenon for the down ballot races, the house and senate races, even the state legislative races? >> my vote is that the high water of the super pac at the presidential level was, as said
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earlier, in the primaries. the high water mark for the super pac in the general election is going to be at the house and senate level, and the simple reason is that you're looking at the numbers we saw up there, you're talking about literally billions of dollars being spent in the presidential and a super pac can make a difference. but it is not going to be the dominant speaker. certainly in a house race, in a senate race a super pac can -- and we're seeing evidence that they're coming in and spending tens of millions of dollars. that may be more than the candidates themselves spend. so they can be the dominant speaker in those races. and i think that's a place where you see a greater evidence of the danger of corruption because a outside group can come in and knock someone off because they have publicly declared them to be an enemy of their viewpoint, their economic agenda, and then you go back to the next congress, and you say look what happened to so and so. we've seen that in both parties'
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primaries already where there were super pacs that spent enormously in the lugar race, for instance, and then on the democratic side in the congressional race in pennsylvania. and so after an election those pacs then have a great deal of credibility in saying if you don't want that to happen to you, you had better tow the line. and i think because of the dominant position they can have in those races, it makes them more important there. >> the other thing i would say, i don't know the answer to this, but it's something to look at, there is a sort of accountability mechanism in politics from, um, using falsehoods or making stuff up in ads or being unnecessarily mean in your ads because if it's coming from the candidate, there's a reputational cost of doing something wrong or of saying something that's untrue against your opponent. kathleen hall jamison at annenberg has done a study looking at presidential super pacs and the ads they've run in the cycle, and her conclusion
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is the super pac ads are less truthful by and large on arrange, and she had numbers like something like a third of the ads include factual inaccuracies. the most famous is the one in south carolina against newt gingrich saying he had basically supported funding for abortion in china which just wasn't true. mitt romney was able to stand on stage and say i have no idea why that ad's running. there's no reputational cost to him even though it was being put up by restore our future. i wonder not just in the presidential, but on some of these down ballot races, you have the real potential to move local elections or smaller elections with false information like that, um, and there will -- because it's coming from super pacs, less accountability because you can't, it's people for a better tomorrow. it's not my opponent who's saying it. you can't blame it directly on the opponent. there's one step removed. and i wonder if at the end of this race when we look back at
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the ads that were run in the final few weeks if we don't see some pretty slimy ads coming out of these outside groups. >> but two small things to add to that. one is that tv stations actually can refuse ads that they consider libelous if they're coming from an outside group. they can refuse ads from a candidate and -- >> they almost never do. >> they almost never do, although there have been a few instances in this cycle of them doing it. and, potentially, those groups can be sued for libel in a way that candidates can't be, which is another -- >> if they're not a shell corporation. >> right. that's the other thing, they -- you know, they form and disappear. >> again, the libel barrier for a public official, you can go pretty far distorting someone's record or the facts about them without meeting libel. >> yeah. >> implicit in this conversation, though, is something i think worth making explicit, and that is we're used to races where candidates are broadcasting at each other.
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when i was involved with the mccain campaign last time, there was a lot of press attention to how negative john mccain was being. so we did, you know, a survey of all of our ads and said that only 15% of them or less were negative, but people were hearing those, and that's the image they got. we then said, well, the obama people were more negative than mccain. it's true, he was running more negative ads because he had so much more money, he could run the negative ads and still run a bunch of positive ads. but that's been what we're used to, the idea that there's going to be a mix of positive and negative, and the candidates genuinely worry that they're going to be seen as too negative. and so they have reputational risk and election risk at stake in their ads. the super pac ads don't have the same risk. we don't know who these people are, we don't much, you know, care what we think of them, and they are 99.9% negative. ..
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if you allow one person to of anonymously solely the debate any significant way, you know, there's -- >> surely the mechanisms while they're not as sharp, super pacs still to stand. that is if there's a wide spread deception that romney does
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heavily some control or influence over what super pac can think him he will be expected to stand up on the stage and repeated, portions of it. >> romney stood on the debate stage, i haven't seen those ads, i wasn't involved in making them, i don't know anything about them. gosh, g. >> but the fact is asked the question at all. the candidates can say i don't know anything about this forever. >> and fear are also clear cases where candidates have come out against ads done by super pacs on their behalf. that happened also in the primaries. so there is a burden. i agree with you there is a burden on the candidate to publicly disavow things or -- said in their support, because they do have a direct affect. i agree with that. >> not to go off on a tangent but when people worry about whether campaigns are getting more negative i always like to
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cite the accusation against jefferson, which was made that he was a hideous hermaphroditic will character possessing neither the strength of a man nor the gentleness of a woman. this was something that was made in an official opposition newspaper at the time. this is not to say that it would be nice if our campaigns were nice, but pretty hideous smears have always been a part of the political landscape and yet our democracy has survived spent absolutely true. the partisans who bought those newspapers knew they were buying the republican or the federalist paper spent although they may not know who was a bank in. >> that's correct. they only knew the paper existed in its corporate form and its name but they knew it was a party pars and one or the other. what's different i think is today, a paper that you can read if you choose. it takes a relatively small piece you today to be. you look at the advertising of
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the, particularly in the swing states, and it's becoming increasingly the only advertising on tv. so i think much more intensive and invasive. and if it is entirely negative, i'm not saying that the speech is more negative than before, i'm guessing there's a lot more of it as you look at the democracy and so how does that affect his postelection when one of these people isn't going to be the winner. [inaudible] >> there's tons of stuff on daily -- all kinds of stuff gets said and it's not going to be regulated. plenty of it is anonymous. where people are putting things into organizations, influence elections are typically although i think maybe, typically by broadcast advertising to get to people who are not going and speaking out are seeking a red states or others.
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>> nathan kaufman, gw student. a group that hasn't been discussed in this conversation is political professionals campaign operatives who benefit enormously from the influx of outside money. to what extent is there benefiting from this money resent a hurdle to either constitutional amendment or some kind of movement to bring more transparency or what have you to the system? >> we have a committee for responsible hack start running ads. save our industry. i think these guys are making money on the net. they're making money on the amount of money that goes into the political space. so i don't think it's the case that, i mean, several of the senior romney strategist would rather have control of this money than super pacs not have control of this money come if they could. other strategists have different
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interests. i don't think they as a group have much lobbying power in washington to influence or prevent. the bigger issue is, the politicians themselves to feel it would be against their interest to restrict super pacs or to allow outside money to come in and maybe unseat them. spent i've always been interested in whether it's the consultant bush campaign saying you need to be spending this many gazillions on tv ads, which is, the guys who buy horse farms in virginia, they are not opposition research. they're always media buyers who get their cut. the obama campaign notably really crack down on some of the take they were getting. but in a sense that word so lucrative, maybe they would -- [inaudible] spent issues to world the difference between working for a campaign with a budget that is trouble raising
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money with a cantankerous candidate who cares how it's spent or wants to know why that costs so much, versus working for yourself. where you get to go out and find people who will hand you money and you can pay yourself what you want, take the commissions you want, run the ads you want and you don't really report to anybody. it's a great world. >> although these super pacs, the ones, restore future and american crossroads, are run by very reputable professionals and they're collecting those large checks based on those reputations. there's a place with these people go into comfortable that there million dollars will be spent well and not blown on -- >> the goldplated party establishment, the shadow party committee, and that's why they can raise the money. >> hi. dave price, i'm just a retiree. i've really enjoyed.
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so first i did want to commend the panel. i think he did something very difficult. you did take on the topic and make it a little bit clear. my first question is to trevor. we talk about corruption. as stephen colbert's attorney, do you have any believe he might take some of the super pac money and try to influence the enemies -- emmys? but here's my question. obviously, it's going to be difficult to change, the time when things are so polarized. but with new technology, the net on all these kind of things, where anybody has kind of their -- you haven't really addressed that as kind of a persuading factor and all settings like. it certainly doesn't equal money. we know that. but if i go home tonight i can do whatever i want to as many people as i can reach. so that's kind of different again going all the way back to a quote from jefferson. it does make a difference. somebody -- ben franklin or
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somebody had said that in print and all you need to do is push it. you do have this unlimited almost speech that can reach as many people so how does that fit in against citizens united? >> i'm sorry, personal as a technology story obama can't raise that money without technology. the net is a little different than in newspaper. a newspaper it's true, you can go write a blog post, so what if the one and an infinite number of people could read the blog posted the thing is no one know that you wrote a blog post and no one will come to your blog post unless you put money behind or have a way promoting it, so there's still a similar various. you can strike it lucky if you do a viable thing, take off. but it's not exactly -- you can't just say you're printing press is now in valuable as restore future printing press because you have access to wordpress or something what do. it's a little more complicated than that. spent the question surprised and. i thought you're going to say we took a murky topic and made it murkier.
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[inaudible] >> the thing about that, your blog post and who is not going to read is that swing voter does not think any attention to politics and that's really what matters. the small donor story is fascinating because what it does, smalltalk technology, it makes it possible for, we've all gotten so many e-mails asking for $3. nobody, nobody ever in 1994 asked for $3 because there's no point in asking for $3. it might be good enough to be supportive but it costs just as much to go back to them. so they only ask you, if you're one of those direct-mail things, suggested 75 or 150, something like that. then you can do it again and again. you go again and again and again. you get people to sort of what they can actually give, pricing them, if what i can give us 150 i will get there. or whatever. it's brilliant and it really is as a real transformational power
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in making it worthwhile for candidates to seek small dose. and that's what i think solutions that are based on encouraging small donors are really the future, in the way couldn't have been in 1994. >> can you sort tell the story of why the small donors are ultimately good? that is to say, if we have 100-$3 donors are since one-$3 donor. how is that better? >> it represents a broader base of support from a broader range of interest. it is easier -- >> this is not changing people's vote. >> an answer to that is, the candidates campaign love to small donors because if they actually invested their money, even if it's $3, they are much more likely to vote. they're much more likely to talk to their neighbors about it. they have made their investment. and then the campaign as their
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e-mail and they can urge them to get neighbors to vote and ask them to volunteer. so i think the answer is both for the campaign and democracy, john mccain used to go on and on about this in talk about mccain-feingold. he said the problem is we've ended up with these millions of dollars of ads being spent in arizona, and nothing else. where are the people who used to come to the barbecues and knock on doors and drive people to polls and be the volunteers? that's what we want. i think he is right, that is what you want in a democracy is an engaged electorate. so getting them to donate is not only part of that but then leads to these other things. what you don't want is a bunch of people just sort of dazed by the air wars and stagger off to the polling booth if they haven't been sufficiently disillusioned. >> can i use -- >> one more question. >> [inaudible]
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>> i just want to ask a question about the difficulty of reporting on a system that has become so much more complicated. in the last eight years but especially in the last two years with some different players and some different rules and different agencies, i mean, we see everyday 501(c)(4)'s that are called super pacs. the basic level, but even talking about spending by 501(c)(4) as opposed to super pac and things like that. i've talked to many a journalist and going to a five minute explanation and i say howdy say that in 30 seconds? i want to ask particularly, mr. sher, about how would you raise the media's reporting of this in general, how could it be improved, or is it bound to always be lost in the murkiness of the subject? >> one of the best things about
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super pacs is they have a name that sounds kind of super cool. super pacs. when you say 501(c)(4), it's like you've already lost your audience. and it's funny, like the media kind of tops these handles to try to make what is very complicated explainable to the public, sort of shorthand. super pac is what we used this year. before it was stealth pacs, 2004 i think. 527 so-called stealth back. or dark money. people will talk about it sounds really cool. at i agree with, it's a huge problem. i think you would agree that the agencies don't have their act together. given what we have given what technology can do, the fec was a functioning body and works better with the irs, and congress waited and created some same system of simple disclosure that can be easily prevented. right now -- [inaudible] to basically process a lot hi


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